Leadership Slippage

I recently received a call from a very effective sales leader. He was frustrated with the recent performance of his sales team and wanted to talk about a couple of his people in particular. I asked how many of his people he thought were underperforming and he said that actually all of them were but some were doing worse than others. 

I asked him what he thought was going on and he said he wasn’t sure. That’s what he wanted to talk to me about. He was surprised when I said that while I didn’t know exactly where the team went off the rails I was pretty sure I knew the source of the problem. 

I’m thinking he wasn’t too happy when I told him that he was the likely source. 

As with most sales leaders he has always accepted part of the credit for his team’s success. But it must worth both ways. If you’re a sales leader the first place you should look if all or most of your team is underperforming is in the mirror. 

Think if it this way. There is only one thing all your salespeople definitely have in common. Your salespeople are all unique individuals. Depending on the structure of the sales organization they may even sell different products to different markets.

The sales leader is the one thing they definitely have in common. That’s why when an entire sales team is slipping I look at the leader. 

I asked him what HE was doing differently. He said he was doing what he always had. He hadn’t changed and neither had the level of leadership he provided to his team. So we started talking back and forth and I eventually asked about his conversations with his team. He said he had asked several members of his team where they were struggling. He asked about specific customers and where in the sales process they were with particular prospects. 

He said that only added to his frustration because they didn’t seem to know. 

I stopped him cold when I asked him, “when did YOU start accepting ‘I don’t know’ as an acceptable answer?” I pushed my point by asking him when he had stopped holding his team accountable for knowing every detail about their territory and their customers. 

He said he didn’t realize that he had. 

That is an incredibly common mistake among all leaders. Leaders have the same ability to slip into bad habits as the people they lead. Authentic Leaders encourage their people to analyze their own performance from time to time but forget that they must do the same. 

When was the last time you paused to ask yourself the following questions? What’s working for you? What’s not working? What good habit have you let slip away? Have you replaced it with a bad habit? What circumstances have changed that you have not adjusted to? How have you positively impacted the people you lead in the last 30 days? 

It’s human nature for some slippage in performance to happen from time to time. That’s where having a coach or a mentor can really come in handy. They can help you identify the slippage before it becomes a problem. If you’re not willing to ask yourself those questions a caring mentor will. 

What many people in Leadership positions don’t realize is that slippage can happen to them as well as their people. That’s why leaders need mentors too. I’ve never met anyone, regardless of age, experience, or level of success who didn’t benefit from having a coach or a mentor. 

Has your level of leadership slipped lately? Slipping into occasional bad habits doesn’t make you a weak leader, it makes you a human being. Being human is a pretty darn good thing to be, especially when you’re trying to lead other humans.

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